Illinois Democrats trumpet Trump name, taunt GOP reluctance

Illinois Democrats had no trouble voicing the name of the Republican presidential nominee during Democrat Day at the State Fair Thursday, deriding their GOP brethren for failing to mention Donald Trump at a rally a day earlier and tying the contentious real estate developer to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"They're two peas in a pod. They're joined at the hip," said House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Chicago Democrat at the center of Republican state fair taunts a day earlier.

Democrats, who with supermajority control of the General Assembly have locked horns with first-term GOP Gov. Rauner over state spending, trumpeted their party's diversity and compassion. Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic congresswoman seeking to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, denounced the "hate-filled, fear-mongering vision for America" she says Trumps espouses.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who rejected — for now — the idea of challenging Rauner in 2018, mocked Republicans for only sparse mentions of Trump's name Wednesday at Governor's Day. Kirk has disavowed the GOP rival to Democrat Hillary Clinton. Rauner refuses to say whether he supports him.

"The party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of Theodore Roosevelt, the party of Dwight David Eisenhower is unable to say the name of their own presidential nominee," Durbin jeered. "Because he's unfit to be president."

Democrats extolled labor unions for their support, a nod to the working-class base the party claims and in contrast to multimillionaires Trump and Rauner.

Duckworth noted the social safety nets Democrats champion, speaking of her family's reliance food stamps when she was young and the federal grant that saw her through college.

"I didn't inherit millions from my dad but I inherited a sense of duty to my nation, respect for hard work and a never-give-up attitude," Duckworth said.

At the center of the Democratic critique was Rauner's conservative "turnaround agenda" to improve the business climate and curb union power, freeze property taxes, impose term limits on politicians and create a fairer way of drawing political maps. Rauner's insistence on those items has blocked full-year budget agreements for two years with Democrats who point to a growing, multibillion-dollar deficit.

Madigan, who was a prominent presence at Governor's Day via term-limits buttons featuring his photo and highlighting his 45 years in the House, said both Democrats and Republicans since Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933 have tried to raise the standard of living and "protect the vulnerable."

"Today in Illinois, Gov. Rauner is attempting to pursue an extreme agenda that would take the state in the opposite direction," Madigan said.

Steven Yaffe, spokesman for the Illinois Republican Party, criticized Madigan for "blaming others for the mess."

"They'll say and do anything to protect their power and the status quo, even if it means blocking common sense reforms like term limits," Yaffe said in an emailed statement. Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said "the governor is focused on developing positive solutions to the problems created by the career politicians."

Susana Mendoza, the Chicago city clerk running to unseat GOP Comptroller Leslie Munger, claimed the incumbent is too cozy with Rauner, who appointed her in 2014 to fill a vacancy. While Munger touts her private-sector experience as a brand-management executive for personal products, Mendoza countered, "There's no amount of shampoo or deodorant to clean up the mess she and Bruce Rauner have created."

Mendoza spent eleven years in Madigan's House of Representatives and two terms as clerk "supporting unbalanced budgets, tax increases and pension holidays," Munger campaign manager Phil Rodriguez said. "We will indeed have to fumigate to clean up the mess."


Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen contributed from Chicago.


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